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Disney's California Adventure

Disney's California Adventure is a theme park opened in 2001, adjacent to Disneyland (and part of the larger Disneyland Resort), in Anaheim, California. It was built on land that was formerly Disneyland's parking lot, which has been replaced with a more distant space-saving multi-level parking structure, the largest in the Western hemisphere (but still seemingly inadequate to cope with peak-season crowds).

The new park was designed on a California theme. Just inside the entrance, the Disneyland Monorail passes over a shrunken Golden Gate Bridge; various areas of the park were designed to recreate different California attractions. The overall intention was to create a more adult-themed park than Disneyland; faster, scarier rides were installed, shows that were designed more for an adult audience, a large number of restaurants, and unlike the Disneyland park, alcohol is served in California Adventure.

Original theme and attractions

Paradise Pier is the part of the park that looks most impressive from a distance, thanks to its large and colorful rides. It is a recreation of a California boardwalk like Santa Monica Pier, with a large rollercoaster (California Screamin' ) and a very large ferris wheel (the Sun Wheel). It has a number of other rides as well, and all the typical boardwalk attractions and stalls besides. It is on a simulated pier surrounding and above an artificial lake. Next to it is a similar area but styled more like San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf area, containing several restaurants and a demonstration tortilla factory.

There is also a Hollywood Backlot area styled to appear as Hollywood streets and movie studios, with Hollywood-themed rides and attractions; an aviation-themed area, Condor Flats featuring the Soaring over California simulated hang-glider ride; a wilderness/forested area featuring a water ride, a Central California-themed area highlighting farming and produce; and an area highlighting winemaking (and with restaurants featuring wine-tasting and the like).

Lack of success

Disney opened the park with high hopes and predictions of success. This was not to be; even the opening day's crowds were below predictions, and that trend has continued without fail since. The park now closes two hours before Disneyland (this means 6pm in the off season when Disneyland closes at 8) and is rarely busy.

Although anticipation had been high prior to the park's opening, bad word-of-mouth from early visitors on preview days and from the press discouraged visitors.

News reports featuring the park rarely mention it without using words like 'troubled'.


A large number of people have criticised the park in general as well as specific aspects of it.


One complaint is that the theme is not a powerful one, and furthermore not one that interests Californians - after all, they live in the real state of California, and a park about California in California is not interesting to them. Since Californians account for a very large proportion of visitors to Disneyland (60%, according to research) this is a major drawback.

Allied to this is the criticism that the park is not Disney enough. Rather than capitalise on the success of Disneyland itself and Disney's successful products, very little of the park (especially at opening time) had much to do with Disney themes.

Emphasis on shops and food, not on rides

California Adventure is also rather light on rides and attractions in general, and a number of the rides that have been created are limited in their capacity (chiefly Soaring over California). Disney management insisted that the park be built to a budget 20% under what the firm would have previously considered adequate, and it is the view of detractors that the savings have come largely out of the 'non profit making' parts of the park -- the attractions, in other words. In their view, Disney spent much more time and effort on the shops and restaurants than they did on the attractions which form most peoples' main reason to come.


The admission price was highly criticised upon launch. Disney boldly charged separate admission for Disney's California Adventure, at a rate equal to the Disneyland entry fee. To many prospective customers, the price (then $42) was better spent on the larger, more attraction-loaded, and proven formula just across the entry plaza -- the original Disneyland. California Adventure seemed to offer less value for money than the original park.

Disney also announced that its customers who held Annual Passports for the Disneyland park would not get entry to its new park. A Two-Park Passport would be available, but at a much higher rate. In fact, Disney suspended sales of all its annual passes just before the opening, and did not restart sales for three months. It was widely rumored that Disney were planning to either scrap the popular Annual Passport program altogether, or to withdraw single-park passes and force everyone to buy more expensive two-park passes.

With the unpopularity of California Adventure obvious soon after launch, none of this took place. The price differential between single park and two-park passes eroded, and eventually Disney merged the two, at the lower price, effectively giving entry to California Adventure to annual pass holders for no additional charge.

In addition, the price for entrance has been drastically reduced, especially for California residents in special promotions.


Unlike the original Disneyland, the only mode of transportation around the new park is on foot. There are no buses, trains, monorails, or vehicles of any kind available to the public. The Disneyland Monorail passes over California Adventure, but does not stop.

Poor quality attractions

A large number of the original attractions have been found by many to be disappointing. This included most of the attractions and restaurants in the Hollywood Backlot area. Although fun, the attractions at Paradise Pier have been criticised as lackluster and generic.

Nothing for small children

The park as first built had few attractions geared towards younger children, surprising those used to Disneyland's competency.

Changes since opening

Since opening, a large number of changes have been made to the park. A large proportion of the attractions and restaurants in the Hollywood Backlot area have been closed, and some re-opened with less-California, more-Disney themes. Most of the farm area at the center has been closed, and replaced with a area for young children themed around Pixar's Disney-marketed A Bug's Life movie.

A number of restaurants operated by outside firms have closed or been taken over by Disney as their sponsors pulled out.

In an attempt to drum up business, Disney have relaunched the well-known Main Street Electrical Parade, formerly at Disneyland, in California Adventure. This did not find favor among many Disney fans, who had been promised that the parade had been retired permanently (and been sold expensive commemorative items based on its permanent retirement).

Disney are at present in the final stages of building a new ride, the Tower of Terror - a replica of the one currently at the Disney World resort in Florida. A thrill ride based on the premise of a elevator car falling free when the cable breaks, it is a popular attraction in its first incarnation and Disney clearly hopes to replicate that in California

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